10 simple steps to a healthier, happier (marriage)

If you are like us you are always looking for ways to change your attitudes, enhance your life together, continue to create intimacy and be drawn closer in your relationship.  Sunday this blog appeared on Rita’s Web browser.  Life coach Ana Alexandre shares easy ways to change your life, starting now. Copyright © 2014 Weider Publications, LLC, a subsidiary of American Media, Inc. All rights reserved. As she read it, it occurred to her that these same things could apply to a marriage relationship as well.

Eliminate clutter

After the holidays I (Rita) always go into overdrive cleaning up and cleaning out things that we no longer need or want.  The same can be said about our relationship.  No I didn’t clean up or clean out Bob but there are things in our relationship that we can eliminate.  We get lazy about spending quality time together since we are together 24/7.  Things like reading, watching TV, hobbies can get in the way.  Some times we are just too lazy to make the effort.  For some time we have been setting aside every other Wednesday to go out to lunch.  We don’t talk about anything but us.  It is a great way to eliminate clutter in our relationship.

Supplement your life

Like the food supplements Ms Alexandre recommends, you can become more interesting to each other when you find a new interest that provides some excitement and something new to share and talk about.  It gets us out of a rut.  The supplement can be something you do together or something you do separately, as long as you take an interest in what your spouse is doing and can appreciate what it does for him/her.  Retired couples have told us that giving each other some space for personally interesting things that they do is important in keeping their marriage healthyI am currently involved in a project to improve education in Haiti.  It is not something Rita wants to be directly involved with, but she supports me and shares my excitement when I make progress on the project. You might also look at ways to supplement your life and your relationship with God.  Perhaps look for activities involving praying together.

Just add water

Water is essential to life.  When we don’t have it or it is unsafe for our use we come to appreciate it more.  This was so obvious to us when we were in Haiti.  We tolerated bathing in the water, had our clothes washed in if but we didn’t consume any of it.  I’m sure it was cooked in the food we ate but we didn’t eat anything that wasn’t cooked.  We didn’t drink any water that wasn’t bottled.  We even brushed our teeth with bottled water.  When we returned to the USA we were so grateful for clean water and still are today.  How does this apply in our relationship?  For our relationship to stay healthy we need to have gratitude, compassion, courage and vision.  We need to drink and enhance those qualities just as we need to drink water.  Perhaps it would be good to think of those as applied to our relationship each time we drink water.  The eight glasses a day might change our relationship if we thought about our spouse and the need to have those qualities in our lives.  Try to drink one of those glasses together with a little time to talk with each other about what you need to do to enhance your love for each other.

Forget the complaint department

Even after 47 years of marriage neither of us has achieved perfection in the eyes of the other.  There are things (not many) that Rita does that are sometimes annoying, but experience suggests that they aren’t likely to change.  In some cases I think she has trouble with the vagueness of my complaints and doesn’t quite know how to respond.  I have learned that an attitude adjustment on my part allows life to go on in a much more pleasant way.  I am aware that Rita does the same with me.  Big items we deal with, little things we mostly accept or ignore.  There is less hassle and life is better that way.

Create a daily ritual

Our lives are filled with rituals whether we recognize them or not.  We sit at the same place at the table.  Sleep on the same side of the bed each night.  Park our cars on the same side in the garage.  Most of us get dressed in the same order each morning and likely watch the same programs on TV each week.  We have had some rituals in our relationship since our honeymoon.  We never are apart for longer than a half an hour with out kissing each other goodbye, we say I love you everyday and we always fall asleep touching each other.  It is good to have rituals in our life.  They create comfort, show commitment and likely help us to remember not to take each other for granted.  Your rituals don’t have to be the same as ours.  When we both worked we always tried to connect with each other at some time during the day.  As cell phones became part of our lives we often talked to each other on our way home.  It allowed us to reconnect before we actually saw each other.  Find a way to create ritual in your marriage every day.  Perhaps it is starting each day with a prayer, maybe it is texting each other at a specific time each day.  Perhaps it is holding each other a few seconds before falling asleep, even if one of you who stays awake longer and gets up again.  Bob did that for years.  The point is to put some order in your life together and enable you to at least once a day spend time together.

Just move it

To quote Ms Alexandre:.

Exercise not only makes you more physically fit, it also boosts your mood, increases your energy, and it can even improve your sex life.

“Find an activity you like and actually want to do. Take a dance or yoga class, go hiking or rollerblading,” the life coach says. “It doesn’t really matter. Just get your body moving.”

When I feel good, my life is generally better.  I ride a bike (inside in winter) and lift weights regularly.  It helps my energy level go up and my mood is better.  It gives me more energy to put into our relationship. We also try to keep exercising and moving along in our relationship.  For a while we have exercised our communication skill, especially in the areas that often lead to misunderstandings.  One area we continue to work at is alerting the other when we are about to change the subject in our conversation.  When I see Rita looking confused or she is responding to me in ways that don’t make sense, I realize that I changed the subject and she isn’t aware of it.  Now we often preface a shift in the topic, by saying something like:  “This is a new subject.”  This kind of exercise allows us to keep getting better with time.

Improve your penmanship

When I first saw this one I wasn’t sure how to apply this in our relationship but, as I read, it occurred to me that this too would have value in our life together.  Ana Alexandre says to “Write down the highlights of your day, something you learned, or just one reason why you’re grateful for the things you have.”  This might be a great activity to try in your life together.  Write these things and then speak them to each other.  It just might be a way to foster intimacy with each other as you learn more and new things about each other.  You could potentially write down each day when you thought about each other.  For nearly thirty years after our Marriage Encounter weekend experience we wrote to each other everyday.  We actually responded to a question that we selected.  It helped us learn amazing things about each other, gave us opportunity to explore areas in our relationship that we might otherwise try to avoid, it allowed us share funny things with each other.  The blogs that we write and the present-ations we prepare for marriage enrichments still give us the opportunity to write and allow the other to read and hear what we say about ourselves and our love for each other.

All you need is love

Ms Alexandre says:  “Find ways to get more love in your life,” Alexandre says. “Make time in your schedule to see the people you love. Play with a child, hug your friends, tell someone you love them, and smile at someone you don’t know. These small gestures can make a big difference.”

These are good ideas, but married couples have the advantage of living and having daily interaction with one we love.  We have several ways that we have committed to expressing our love for each other every day.  We make regular physical contact throughout the day, sometimes hugs and kisses and other times little touches as we pass each other.  I like it a lot when Rita comes up behind me while I’m working at the computer and kisses the bald spot on the top of my head.  Sometimes we have a little friendly competition while watching Wheel of Fortune.  We each compliment the other when they win.  Of course, we love each other in a much larger way that is important, but these little gestures keep it alive in our day-to-day living.

Eat your veggies

Like water veggies are essential to our lives.  They provide us with necessary vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy.  What are the veggies we need in our marriage?   The first, I think, is forgiveness, another is seeing that there is something greater than the two of us, and lastly, I think physical contact is essential, whether holding hands, touching each other or making physical love to each other, all are important.  It might help you to stay physically healthy if you ate carrots, peppers or broccoli while you did the above.  Figure out what should be the “veggies” in your relationship and make sure they are part of your daily life together.
Sleep it off

When we are tired, everything becomes more difficult.  We can become grumpy with ourselves and each other.  It is difficult to deal with little annoyances and they sometimes escalate into bigger crises.  Couples are often given the advice to take a break from a disagreement and “sleep on it”, it will not seem so bad in the morning.  That is true.  Giving our tired bodies and brains time to process the issue and just being rested can make the issue seem less important and/or easier to resolve.  Just being rested and at our best makes life easier and better and allows us to enjoy being together without lots of stress.

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Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:

Living Together in the Word

Bob & Rita’s book:  Forever and Day:  An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us.  Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time.  Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.

About Rita & Bob Boeke

Rita Boeke has experience teaching scripture and with her husband Bob has experience in enriching marriages through workshops and retreats. They post a weekly blog at thewonderofmarriage.com and co-authored Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime.
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